True Religion

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:26-27

The religion toward which every man’s heart is prone is characterized by a boasting in his own spirituality through the outward show of lofty words, and even lovely deeds, while inwardly there dwells secret depravity unchecked. But true religion in the sight of God is characterized by the golden harmony of authentic selflessness and personal holiness.

There is a sureity of tongue which is not born of holy confidence, but of arrogance; and yet there is also a self-deprication that is not born of humility, but of pride.
The spiritual worship that is to be the very walk of every child of God is a daily offering of life to receive Life; it is the fragrance of holy conduct born of the fear of the Lord’s mercy. For he in whom the demerrited mercy of God does not invoke a reverence unto obedience has not known God.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

To “worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) is directly equivocal to living a selfless and holy life. For to be authentically selfless only flows from the shattering recognition of the mercy of God; and to be truly holy is to be true – which is to be without mixture in one’s dealings with He who is all-knowing.

How, therefore, does the selfish man walk humbly, and the sinner live holy? By the application of the cross to every facet of his life and being, spirit soul and body. For he to whom the cross of Christ truly applies shall bear his own cross also. And it is this bearing of the cross which promises the abundant entrance into the heavenly kingdom. In the urgency of such a life in God, there is found the foretaste of eternal rest; and in the overcoming obedience of such a faith, there runs a trust which takes hold of a purely God-ward contentment.

“The truly religious man does everything as if everything depends on himself, and then leaves everything as if everything depended on God.”
– Joseph Parker

Finney – A Lesson From History

When we sanitize the long and sorted history of God’s people by filtering it through our personal traditions, we miss out on a greater appreciation for the saying, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

On to the subject matter…

Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.”

Is this blessing then pronounced on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it counted? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?

Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they might be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them.

Romans 4:4-11 (WEB)

Now consider this quote:

“There can be NO justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim, that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ’s obedience as ours, on the ground that He obeyed for us.”
– Charles G. Finney, Systematic Theology, 362

Why not instead say that faith without works is dead, as say the scriptures? The claim of justification without any sanctification is self-deception; but this does not permit us to throw out the former because we do not see enough of the latter. They are both part-and-parcel of the grace of God in salvation. This conflation of the two leads to a denial of what both are. For there is judicial righteousness, and there is experiential righteousness – and the two are not at odds (except in the minds of some). They are both present in true salvation, yet they are distinct in function; for the one is the begining and underpinning of the other. It is not without purpose that the apostle Paul frequently structured his letters according to this principle. Peter then shakes awake our sleepy hearts from interpreting Paul carnally, and puts in us the fear of God, convicting us of God’s holiness; and James with John clarify the synthesis: that the righteous will practice what has been given to them, and the rest are evidently not of His sheep.

It is not a question of too much or too little grace; it is a question of authentic grace. It is not a question of to much or too little law; it is a question of authentic law. Now the authentic article of faith is the divine law being written upon the heart of a man by the finger of God, and it is the giving of empowerment to obey such by the indwelling Holy Spirit – and this is all of grace. For no man has this inherently: he must be granted it from heaven. To deny this justification by faith in order to begin sanctification is to remove a foundation before building a house.

Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is GOD who justifies.
Romans 8:33 (WEB)

To set out upon a sanctified walk without being justified by faith is to set out across a bridge with no beams supporting it. It is doomed to fail, for it has no basis. It has no preexsisting grace by which to affirm that the way is sure and the goal attainable; and it has no ever-present grace to remind us that even what we have attained is all by God’s mighty power.

The man Finney often preached well against the tyranny of the self; but at times offered little more than the pitiful power of the fallen human will as its antidote – which only can perpetuate the cycle of said tyranny. (Rom 7). It is a sad truth that a great wealth of spiritual excitement and conviction can dwell alongside a ghastly lack of staying power.

Now this may be objected to by those who are aware of Finney’s teachings on the Holy Spirit, which are numerous and in many aspects quite excellent. But the Holy Spirit, were He bound by the choices of the human will or limited to man’s “uninterrupted obedience to law,” would have no power to sanctify us. For the will of man is the very first and primary matter that the Spirit comes to set right in us. For the law of God is not written on our hearts until the Lawgiver by the Spirit does so; and if He cannot do so without a sinner’s permission, then it will most assuredly never happen. But if we accept such teaching, we are left quite to ourselves, and we deny much of God’s help, however unwittingly.

For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Romans 8:6-9 (WEB)

And how is the Holy Spirit obtained?

I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see Him, neither knows Him. You know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 (WEB)

The more true obedience to His maker that a man walks in, the more he ought to behold the gracious preordination of God in every step along the way, and all the more quickly should he therefore yield himself unto the doing of that same will of God. But the man who becomes proud of his own obedience sees it only as the doing of his own will, and mocks the grace of the God who had soveriegnly worked it all in him. This man takes little delight in being humbled; and rather than simply surrendering to the will God, he constantly makes treaties with his Creator, thinking it to be the Lord’s method. Man’s desire to “be like the most high” of his own accord and by his own means is insatiable; and it must be crushed by the overbearing power of the Spirit of Grace, who is the mouth of the fount of true sanctification.

Do I hereby condemn Charles Finney? No! Based on many other things he said, I actually believe that he himself had a real and powerful walk with God. For by God’s grace, many who are attracted to vain philosophy may yet be constrained by His power to truly know and walk with Him despite their most carnal notions; and they are herein most blessedly inconsistent. Finney also lived in a day of great spiritual slumber – and despite the shear reactionism behind such of his teachings as those here quoted, he was apparently not without a good measure of real fruit. I dare any one of us to presume that we were the better man for that hour. God knew what He was doing.

The legacy of those things which we call the movings of Christ throughout the ages is one often beset with the mixture of man’s disasterous religious recipes and earthly philosophy.

O Lord, give us eyes to see that which is pure, holy, and becoming of You; that we may test all things, and hold fast to what is good!

Thought – “God Gave Them Up”

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness… …For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections…
Romans 1:24-6

When God is stretching out His hand to save, those most in line with His will are reflective vessels of His action. But likewise, when God is giving over a people to their own devices, those who are most in line with His will are reflective vessels of the same. The functioning members of Christ do not contradict Him; and that which does is by definition the spirit of antichrist which is the spirit of the age. And the perpetuation of that world system is self-destructive, for so is the inevitable way of the world. To get caught up even into its trappings flatly contradicts the call of God’s own. There is no higher purpose than that which is found in the counsel of God’s inner sanctum; where not a vestige of the vanity around us has any place.

Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord : They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
Proverbs1:24-33

Quote – Paul Washer

Perhaps the greatest lie in evangelical Christianity today is that if you “ask Jesus into your heart,” He will most definitely come in.
– Paul Washer

You have not chosen Me, but I chose you out and planted you, that you should go and should bear fruit, and your fruit remain, that whatever you should ask the Father in My name, He may give you.
John 15:16

Scripture & Thought – Obedience & The Self

There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. For the law being powerless, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous demand of the law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 (LITV)

A man cannot overemphasize his total inability to please God in and of himself; but there are those who struggle to obey God because they overshadow the cross of Christ with the ruinous heap of their recurring sins. This in itself is actually a fleshly self-centeredness, it is a faithless sin to be repented of in view of God’s mercy. For if one fears and delights in the Lord, including the sufficiency of His work and a trusting in His desire to continue it, then that same one delights in nothing less than the glory of God’s Name; and to obey the Lord then becomes a joy despite one’s existing shortcomings.

Only by this does one draw near to God in such a way that his personal faults and long-entrenched sins can be overcome in the Lord’s ever-nearer presence; for this honors the Holy Spirit and invites His power. But when our obedience is about ourselves, and not all about the Lord of Glory, then it is not true obedience anyways, and will ironically benefit us nothing. The Lord calls us not to the limit of our means, but far beyond, where we have no means but He Himself. The fruit of the Spirit is not invoked by the striving of the flesh.

For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
Romans 8:5-9 (LITV)

A Word for the Branches

Here me, O young branches, you which are the newest buds of the tree: despise not the branches which are before you, if they leave you not naked. Nor despise the great trunk, if it lifts you up to heaven; nor neglect the wisdom of the roots unseen, if by their strength you are grounded, and if by their humility you are fed. For unless such a good tree is stunted in growth, you will also become like the branches before you, covering the nakedness of the new with glory. But if the tree is bereft of life, then you will be the first to wither. Pray then, you who are nearest to heaven, that even should the rest of the tree fail beneath you, you may yet be established. For many a tree in the orchard of the Lord has indeed been found unworthy of His planting.

“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:9 (ESV)

Woe therefore to the older branches, if they fail to gracefully cover the nakedness of the new branches – they have despised the need of the younger. And woe to the trunk which which draws up no life for them both to grow – it has stripped itself of all glory. But woe also to the roots, which though having ample ground to grow in, yet spread themselves not lowly for the good of all the rest – the axe has been laid to them, and the whole is ready to fall.

And the crowds asked Him, “What then shall we do?” And He answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Luke 3:10-11 (ESV)

Therefore, O living branches, all you that love the rain of the Lord’s heaven, and the light of His countenance, and the sureity of His ground: Give the Life of God to those who truly love it, but suffer no more the barrenness of this creaking tree, lest you be felled along with it. Then you will be found grafted into the tree of the Lord’s own planting, having been pruned from the one that has died. Plant not yourselves, nor be planted any longer in the wisdom of former tree, which has no Life of God. But let the Lord Himself establish you, even as you establish one another in HIM; and you will together be found as His own planting: a tree of His heavenly splendor not withering.

For the Sake of the Elect

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
2 Timothy 2:10

This is the heart of our Apostle and High Priest. The longsuffering of our Lord with this fallen world is truly astounding, and ought to give us pause in our own haughtiness as we face the same world every day. We have not suffered as He, nor shall we ever suffer in the same manner. And though the glories be few and far between, let the well of His Life water our souls in this desert, sending rivers out from us toward any who would come and drink of His fountain. For we are called as abassadors of He who endured all things for the sake of His elect. As for His flock which are driven to and fro in this hour, He has purposed for none of His true sheep to perish, but that each of them should reach repentance, that they may hasten the Day of the Lord. (2Pet 3:9-12).

And the words of His elect’s repentance are these: “I am the man that has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and caused me to walk in darkness, and not in light.” (Lam 3:1-2) For He makes darkness His slave, and the shadows He bends to His own will. In an hour of such thick darkness, there is yet a people that the Lord has determined to have for Himself, and He will have them even if He must drag them as it were through hell. But if this heart of Christ does not blossom and bear fruit within those who have knowledge in these things, how wretched shall they be to find that the labours of those with little understanding, yet great courage, showed forth the greater wisdom of God in the earth.

Or was it not also the will of the Lord to grant repentance to Ninevah for a time, so much so that He pursued a reluctant prophet, bringing glory to Himself by the mouth of the obstinate? The prophet of God was given no choice, and the soil of the heathen hearts was already tilled to recieve the seed of the Sower despite the imperfect method of its delivery. Shall any deny that this softness of Ninevah’s heart was the direct work of the very Spirit of the Lord; even as was the forcing of Jonah’s hand, who’s wavering heart God still knew to love righteousness? “So, then, it is not of the one willing, nor of the one running, but of the One showing mercy, of God.” (Rom 9:16) And knowing then that it is of mercy, let us by hope do better than Jonah, not grumbling in our witness; but let us rather stand firm upon the foundation of God which promises, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and also commands, “Let everyone naming the Name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

As Isaiah says regarding God’s electing grace,

I have been sought, not by those who asked. I have been found, not by those who sought Me. To a nation not calling on My name, I said, “Behold Me! Behold Me!”
Isaiah 65:1

For they will sing, “Worthy are You to receive the scroll, and to open its seals, because You were slain, and by Your blood purchased us to God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9) This scroll of which they speak is the Book of Life, in which the Father has already written the names of His own! Yet by what means has the Lord determined to unveil this marvel of redemption in the earth? By the foolishness of preaching! The time is at hand when the hidden men of God must arise from their dwellings and proclaim to those who have no choice the God who chooses men.

I have other sheep which are not of this fold. I must also lead those, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock, one Shepherd.
John 10:16

He came to gather the lost sheep of His own house, and He will not cease to intercede until each one of them is fully His; but to the rest He says, “You will not believe, because you are not of my sheep.” Yet who will bring His gospel to all their ears? Who will bear the burden of His call? Is not the Lamb worthy to receive the reward of His sufferings? And how little in comparison shall we ourselves suffer for the glory that is to be revealed in us!

What a sure hope there is for those whom He is drawing to Himself! Let this be an encouragement to all those whom He sends.

Love endures all things.